Local furniture designer selling globally
Tom Svec has made a living designing and selling custom wood furniture to people around the world – all from the comfort of a barn and studio on an island in the Susquehanna River. He has especially found favor with urbanites.
“It’s kind of a no brainer. When you live in a concrete and steel environment, wood with its natural contours and color adds an element of nature [for those] who aren’t surrounded by it,” said the furniture designer. Svec’s designs have been collected by clients from America to Asia to Europe.
Some of Svec’s pieces are born from reclaimed trees or wood from demolished buildings. “Over the years, I have started to salvage lumber from trees in harm’s way. A lot of trees in parks and on college campuses have strong ties to people,” said Svec.
One particular tree is near and dear to the alumni of Penn State University (PSU) in State College. “There were two olympian elms that flanked the south facade of Old Main and one died in 2012. I worked with their arborist to build some cool stuff out of it,” Svec said. That tree was 6-7 feet in diameter and has been crafted into artisan furniture that gives alumni a touchstone to the past.
PSU alumni aren’t the only ones who want a piece with a backstory. Svec said, “I think the story is part of the emerging demographic. As younger people become detached from traditional situations, I think they are looking for connections or a larger picture with meaning beyond the surface.”
That is the genesis of Svec’s work. He creates “furnishings with a story.”
Svec said of his bespoke creations, “For example, if you lose a shade tree from your property it has an emotional impact. So, if you can recover something from that loss, it affects people profoundly. I get unsolicited calls where someone took a tree down that was on their property for a 100 years [and they ask], ‘Can you do something with it?'”
From his workshop on the Great Island just west of Lock Haven, Svec crafts one-of-a-kind furnishings. Pieces include benches, dining room tables, rocking chairs, platform beds or whatever his client has in mind. “I am interested in connecting ideas and materials,” the master craftsman said.
Svec’s furniture styles range from modern to rustic. “There are designs that make sense to me and there is an economy of statement and material that is part of the design process. It gives you a simplified design aesthetic. I am somewhat of a minimalist. Some of that is economically imposed. Aesthetically, a table needs only three legs to stand on, so that’s all it gets,” said Svec.
For years, Svec has also designed pieces that are not custom. “I have always sold through retailers in urban markets,” said Svec. His designs stand the test of time. “It has definitely evolved over the years but I have designs that are 30 years old that are still in production.”